Published on October 15th, 2019 📆 | 8007 Views ⚑0
Streaming devices track viewing habits, study finds
Do you know what kind of data your streaming device may be collecting while you binge watch?
Steadily, we are adopting more and more technology into our households. Our homes are becoming more interconnected, with IoT (Internet of Things) devices becoming regular parts of our lives. One of the devices that is the centerpiece of most households is the television set – and with it often come internet-connected streaming services. So, what is the trade-in for having the convenience of a vast library of content at your fingertips?
To a certain extent, the trade-in may be your privacy. A study conducted by researchers from Princeton University and the University of Chicago unveils that at least some streaming devices are tracking some of your viewing habits.
The research focused on two streaming devices, Roku and Amazon Fire TV, simply because together they have the largest global market share. The devices are OTT (Over-The-Top), which means they add smart features to your TV, mainly online streaming libraries.
The research found that tracking is prevalent on both platforms, with trackers present on 69% of Roku channels while Amazon Fire TV has trackers on 89% of its channels. On Roku, doubleclick.net, a tracking domain owned by Google, is the most dominant tracker, appearing in 975 of the 1,000 tested channels.
In the case of Amazon Fire TV, the dominant tracker is Amazon’s tracking domain amazon-adsystem.com appearing in 687 of the 1,000 tested channels. Another two domains connected with Google appear in the top ten trackers present in both tested devices.
Two unique IDs – the AD ID and the serial number – are the most “leaked” unique identifiers. Other unique identifiers that the devices transmit are the device IDs, MAC addresses, Wi-Fi SSIDs and in four instances the email address used to create the account.
The researchers also selected one hundred channels at random to find out whether the devices tracked the viewing tastes of their users. They found out that nine channels on Roku and fourteen on Amazon Fire TV leaked the title of the video to a tracking domain.
The researchers conclude that the privacy countermeasures provided are ineffective when it comes to preventing tracking. They recommend that OTT platforms should provide better privacy features such as those offered by modern browsers, including private browsing. You can read their full set of recommendations and findings in the study.